United Overseas Bank (UOB) said on Friday (Jan 14) that it has agreed to buy Citigroup’s consumer banking businesses in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam for about S$4.915 billion.

The proposed acquisition includes Citigroup’s unsecured and secured lending portfolios, wealth management and retail deposit businesses in the four countries.

“The acquisition … is a great opportunity that comes at the right time. UOB believes in Southeast Asia’s long-term potential and we have been disciplined, selective and patient in seeking the right opportunities to grow,” said Mr Wee Ee Cheong, deputy chairman and CEO of UOB. 

UOB will fund the purchase with excess capital. The total cash consideration will be calculated based on a premium of S$915 million, plus the net asset value of the consumer business as at completion.

Citigroup’s consumer business had an aggregate net asset value of about S$4 billion as of end-June last year.

It had a customer base of about 2.4 million as of June last year, and generated about S$500 million income in the first half of 2021.

“The proposed acquisition will expand UOB’s partner ecosystem and is expected to double UOB’s existing retail customer base in the four markets, accelerating its customer base target five years ahead of time,” UOB said. 

UOB said it intends to bring onboard Citigroup’s 5,000 consumer business employees in those markets, including senior leadership.

Citigroup will assist in the migration of the customers and employees to ensure a smooth transition, it added.

OCBC Investment Research said it viewed the announcement “positively”, given that Citigroup’s assets “look complementary” and should further strengthen UOB’s franchise in Southeast Asia.

UOB estimated its retail customer base could double to about 5.3 million post transaction, OCBC added.

“Post acquisition, (UOB) expects an immediate S$1 billion in incremental annual income uplift and asset growth through the expanded franchise,” said OCBC.

UOB is expected to see an “improved outlook” this year in tandem with the “brighter regional economic outlook” as COVID-19 vaccinations progress, added OCBC.

The proposed acquisition comes after Citigroup announced in April last year that it would exit consumer banking in 13 markets, most of which were in Asia, as part of efforts to focus on wealth management and move away from retail banking in places where it is small.

“We are confident that UOB, with its strong culture and broad regional ambitions, will provide excellent opportunities and a long-term home for our consumer banking colleagues in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam,” said Mr Peter Babej, CEO of Citi Asia Pacific. 

The proposed acquisition is subject to regulatory approvals relevant to each country and in Singapore. Completion of the deal is expected between mid-2022 and early 2024, depending on the progress and outcome of the regulatory approval process, said UOB.

UOB’s share price rose 2.6 per cent to S$29.93.